Narcissism has been on a steady rise in the U.S. Today, 70 percent of students score higher on narcissism and lower on empathy than thirty years ago. As many as 6.2 percent of the adult population in the U.S. may have a narcissistic personality disorder, according to the DSM-5, a diagnostic tool used by mental health professionals.
Traits of narcissistic individuals include: entitlement, arrogance, defensiveness, lack of empathy for others, the belief that they are special, and a constant demand for admiration. While narcissists have a distorted sense of their own self-importance, they can be seductive and charming until you get to know them. Unfortunately, one study found that people don't recognize a narcissist until after seven meetings.
One study found that people don't recognize a narcissist until after seven meetings.
Ways to see through the charismatic masks narcissists wear
Narcissists often seek successful and attractive partners because they provide a self-esteem boost to the fragile ego of the narcissist. While they will begin the relationship with flattery and "love bombing," they will work to slowly erode the confidence of their partner. Though they lack empathy, they are often very good at manipulating people, and at the outset of a relationship will appear charming and engage in fulsome flattery.
As the relationship progresses, the narcissist's generosity, flattery, romantic gestures and promises of commitment will give way to manipulation, cheating, threats and gas lighting. While they continue to demand praise and admiration from their partner, they no longer reciprocate.
While they will begin the relationship with flattery and "love bombing," they will work to slowly erode the confidence of their partner.
At work, they make big boasts and promises they can't keep; they take credit for the work of others; and they often isolate one person to bully, while treating that person totally differently in front of others. They will humiliate and lie about anyone who threatens their fragile ego, creating a very toxic work environment.
The name narcissism comes from the Greek myth of Narcissus, who according to legend was condemned by the gods never to know human love. He fell in love with his own reflection in a pool of water and died thirsting for himself. Like Narcissus, narcissists only "see" themselves through reflections in others. They are ruled by intense and deep-seated self-hate that masquerades as intense self-love. They actually dislike themselves immensely and are afraid to look within themselves.
Narcissus fell in love with his own reflection in a pool of water and died thirsting for himself.
Since narcissists leave a trail of emotionally and even physically abused people in their wake, it's important to be able to identify narcissistic traits before they poison your life. There are three ways to identify narcissists: pay attention to their words, your emotions, and their behavior, according to Billy Eddy, author of 5 Types of People Who Can Ruin Your Life.
Their words are either extremely positive or extremely negative
Examples of Positive: "You're the best person I ever met, I can't believe how amazing you are, I will give you everything you have ever wanted, You are the most beautiful person in the world, I am the best and most successful business person, I am smarter than everyone I know."
Examples of Negative: "He's such a loser, My ex was a horrible person, Everyone I know is so stupid, I've been treated so unfairly, I can't wait to show everyone how much of a loser he is."
A narcissist's words betray their lack of empathy. Very often if you tell them about a bad experience, they will try to one-up you. "If you think that's bad, wait until you hear what happened to me!"
At the outset of a relationship with a narcissist, it is common to feel intensely flattered, as if the other person is too good to be true. Beware: narcissists are very beguiling and seductive and do not show their dark side until they've hooked someone.
Instead of growing in love together, it's common for someone in a relationship with a narcissist to start to feel inadequate thanks to the daily put-downs that a narcissist dishes out. The narcissist's partner will begin to feel drained and as if all their individuality, energy and vitality have been stolen away.
Instead of growing in love together, it's common for someone in a relationship with a narcissist to start to feel inadequate thanks to the daily put-downs that a narcissist dishes out.
The saying "actions speak louder than words" is doubly true when dealing with narcissists. Pay careful attention to the stories they tell about themselves. Do they take responsibility for failures at work and in other relationships, or is it always someone else's fault?
If they acknowledge wrongdoing, have they done anything to make amends or do they continue the same pattern? Do they spend their energy demonizing opponents instead of working towards solutions? If you ask them to change something or do something differently, do they attack and blame you?
Sometimes people are attracted to narcissists because they had toxic, narcissistic parents, so these traits and patterns feel familiar to them. In other cases, the narcissist succeeds in hiding the dark side of their personality until their victim is hooked. Ending a relationship with a narcissist can be extremely difficult because of the way they lash out when rejected.